Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was forced to pull out of a planned official trip to China last weekend to undergo medical tests, it has been revealed.
The Sinn Féin politician was due to travel with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster last Sunday but was advised to withdraw from the four-day trip so as to undergo a medical assessment.
A spokesperson for the Stormont Executive Office confirmed McGuinness was continuing with his duties as Deputy First Minister in the meantime, while Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams stated he had met with McGuinness in Stormont following the last-minute decision.
McGuinness continues in "fulfilling his responsibilities as deputy first minister working with his departmental political advisers," stated the Executive Office.
"There has been no disruption to the work of The Executive Office during this period."
The Executive has announced Martin McGuinness will not be travelling to China next week "due to unforseen personal circumstances"— Tracey Magee (@Tracey_utv) December 2, 2016
Adams, a TD in the Republic of Ireland, stated, "I’m sure everybody who values his work will send best wishes to Martin, Bernie, and their family.
"I met with Martin as normal at Stormont on Monday. I have been in regular contact with him since and he is totally committed to fulfilling his duties."
On Thursday evening it was confirmed 66-year-old McGuinness did not travel so as to undergo “medical assessment,” raising questions about his health. The initial statement issued when McGuinness pulled out of the trip on Saturday, December 3, just hours before flying out, named “unforeseen personal circumstances” as the reason for the last-minute withdrawal, insisting the reasons were “purely personal”.
This week, the Executive Office issued a further statement, however, revealing the Deputy First Minister was advised not to travel. The nature of the medical assessment has not been specified.
The trip by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister was organized as a trade mission, with First Minister Foster meeting with senior Chinese political and industry figures.
During the four-day trip, Foster opened an NI Executive Bureau in Beijing, promoting Northern Ireland as a place for business, and signed an agreement with Liaoning, one of China’s richest provinces.
Speaking at the official opening of the Bureau, First Minister Foster stated, “The establishment of this Bureau, the expansion of the Invest NI team and five Ministerial visits to China in 18 months are indicators of the importance of this relationship.
“We want to see Northern Ireland organisations come to China and for Chinese organisations and people to consider Northern Ireland as an option, whether it is for business, education or cultural development.”
Director of the Bureau, Belfast man Tim Losty, told UTV Ireland, “We’ve put our money where our mouth is.
“We gave a commitment to the Chinese government a number of years ago that we would do this - and we’ve done it. That really does help to build a long-term relationship here.”